USA – Ghana Analysis

United States coach Bob Bradley watches the play during the 2010 World Cup second round match against Ghana at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 26, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)


Ghana fiddled with their formation just enough to confound the US midfield, and though Bob Bradley made a halftime adjustment, the early goal was too much to overcome.

Ghana’s Formation

Ghana's starting formation

As we discussed in our match preview, Ghana had a man advantage in the midfield. And though they changed their 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3, the Black Stars still outgunned the US in the middle of the pitch.

The reason for their early midfield dominance was right back Samuel Inkoom (picking up his first cap by the way). While he was officially deployed as a right winger, he played much deeper than his counterpart Andre Ayew. Inkoom’s defensive skills allowed Kevin-Prince Boateng to play a bit higher than he had in earlier contests, and the adjustment meant their midfield advantage was more pronounced. Ricardo Clark in particular struggled to cope. Ghana’s tactical creativity was rewarded with Boateng’s 5th minute goal.

After Boateng left due to injury, Ghana did return to their 4-2-3-1.

USA’s Adjustments

Bob Bradley and Benny Feilhaber might be inventing a new position – the false-eleven. FFG has previously discussed the false-nine, a center forward essentially operating as an attacking midfielder. Feilhaber, in a similar vein, was deployed as a left midfielder (the classic number 11) but spent most of his time in the center of the pitch.

USA's Successful 2nd Half Changes

His central position, coupled with Clint Dempsey playing as a withdrawn forward, allowed the gringos to negate Ghana’s previous midfield supremacy. Bradley had clearly thought of this strategy awhile ago, as the United States used the exact same tactic against Algeria. Why the gringos didn’t begin with this formation is not immediately clear.

Our hypothesis is that Bradley the Elder didn’t want to compromise the left flank unless absolutely necessary. Feilhaber’s central position left a lot of space on the flank, especially when Bornstein pushed forward. At one point, Dempsey had to drop back to left midfield because Feilhaber had gone so far forward.

So why did the US lose?

Bradley’s halftime fiddling had a positive result, but it still couldn’t prevent a US loss. Here’s why:

Playing with fire

Even casual soccer fans could tell you that letting in early goals is going to bite you in the end. Had the United States not given up Boateng’s goal, they would have won in normal time.

Bad Luck

The first goal was terrible play on the part of Clark (Tim Howard can’t avoid responsibility either), but there wasn’t anything the gringos could do about the second.

Andre Ayew is either the luckiest soccer player in the world or the best. His service to Gyan was a no-look pass sent using the outside of his foot and traveling half the field before landing just in front of Gyan.

Such a deflating goal to concede.

Poor finishing

In our last State of the US (National Team), under the heading Ugly American, we posited the following possibility for the World Cup: “Findley and Buddle (will) look as if they’re playing with a rock instead of the most aerodynamic ball of all-time, while Gomez (will be) unable to replicate his previous magic.”

Does Charlie Davies convert Findley’s 35th minute opportunity? I think he does.

FFG certainly isn’t unique in pointing out the inadequacies of Davies’ replacements. Along with Onyewu’s health, it was the biggest concern heading into the World Cup, but their failure to score needs to be noted.

Also, Jozy Altidore did not have a great game either, and, like Findley, Altidore’s 67th minute miss contrasted quite sharply with Gyan’s classy finish.

Poor decision

England’s goal was Ricardo Clark’s fault, Ghana’s 1st goal was Clark’s fault, and it was Bob Bradley’s fault to trust him again. Clark did play well for most of the England game, but he had been terrible in the pre-World Cup friendlies and, in FFG’s opinion, Maurice Edu had been exceedingly better in all of his appearances. Perhaps Edu was too worn out to go a full ninety and Bradley thought fresh legs would be more important than form.

Clark’s performance is the one blot on Bradley’s decisions this World Cup. The strikers’ shortcomings couldn’t really be helped – as Bradley didn’t have anyone else – and the manager’s adjustments worked out in each game.

It’s just too bad Clark couldn’t reward Bradley’s faith.

Gringos, did you notice any other tactical or personnel problems?

6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Rupert J Pelfrey says:

    The commentators thought that Jozy didn’t look 100%. Do you agree?

  2. bensten says:

    Gyan kind of manhandled our center backs, especially on his game winner. Not to dwell on “what ifs,” but a Gooch in top form could have taken Gyan out of the play…

    Our boys just didn’t have the juice left. They were all dragging.

    Think Bob will survive this one?

    • Blake Owen says:

      I actually had a section on Gooch in my analysis but left it out for brevity. He definitely would have pushed Gyan off the ball in that situation, but I think Ayew’s crazy pass was somehow destined to set up a goal anyway.

      I’ll post more on Bob later today. Right now I’ll just say that his contract runs through the end of the year.

  3. Rupert J Pelfrey says:

    It might be a little early to look toward the future, but which players possibly played in their last world cup ?

    • Blake Owen says:

      I will have a mega-post on the issue up later today or early tomorrow.

      But off the top of my head – Bocanegra, DeMerit, Cherundolo, Goodson, Hahnemann, and all strikers not named Altidore.

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